SIGNIFICANT HABITATS AND HABITAT
OF THE NEW YORK BIGHT WATERSHED
List of Species of Special Emphasis
I. SITE NAME: Long Pond Greenbelt
II. SITE LOCATION: The Long Pond Greenbelt is located on the South Fork of Long Island about 145 kilometers (90 miles) east of New York City.
STATE: New York
USGS 7.5 MIN QUAD: Sag Harbor, NY (40072-83)
USGS 30 x 60 MIN QUAD: Long Island East, NY (40072-E1)
III. BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION AND JUSTIFICATION: The Long Pond Greenbelt habitat complex encompasses the network of contiguous ponds, streams, wetlands, and adjacent upland woods from Sagaponack Inlet on the south shore of Long Island on the South Fork, north to Sag Harbor; this includes, from south to north, Sagaponack Pond, Sagg Swamp, and the network of coastal plain ponds from Bridgehampton north to Sag Harbor; these ponds include Poxabogue Pond, Little Poxabogue Pond, Slate Pond, Black Pond, Crooked Pond, Long Pond, Little Long Pond, Lily Pond, Little Round Pound, and Round Pond. The boundary for the greenbelt generally follows the immediate groundwater drainage of the coastal plain ponds. It closely follows Atlantic Avenue/Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Road on the west and Sagaponack Main Street/Sagg Road on the east. This habitat complex includes regionally rare coastal plain pond communities and plants, upland buffers for the ponds, brackish pond and beach habitat used for feeding and nesting by fish and wildlife species, and the relatively unfragmented corridor of woods and wetlands used as breeding, migratory, and overwintering areas for amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, and other wildlife.
IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTION/RECOGNITION: The preservation of land in the Long Pond Greenbelt has been a goal in the master plan for the town of Southampton since 1970 and the town, along with Suffolk County and The Nature Conservancy, has preserved about 162 hectares (400 acres) to date. Poxabogue County Park occurs adjacent to Poxabogue Pond. Several parcels of the Long Pond Greenbelt Preserve and the Sagg Swamp Preserve are owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. A draft management plan for the greenbelt has been prepared by a committee that includes representatives from several governmental, public, and private organizations. Long Pond Greenbelt is recognized by the New York State Department of State as a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat. The Long Pond Greenbelt was recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a priority wetland complex under the federal Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986. Sagaponack Pond has been designated and mapped as an undeveloped beach unit as part of the Coastal Barrier Resources System pursuant to the federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act, prohibiting federal financial assistance or flood insurance within the unit. The New York State Natural Heritage Program, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, recognizes several Priority Sites for Biodiversity within the Long Pond Greenbelt complex. These sites are listed here along with their biodiversity ranks: Long Pond Greenbelt (B2 - very high biodiversity significance), Slate Pond (B2), Black Pond Bridgehampton (B3 - high biodiversity significance), and Little Poxabogue Pond (B3).
V. GENERAL AREA DESCRIPTION: The Long Pond Greenbelt is an approximately 11-kilometer (7-mile) north-south corridor of ponds, streams, and adjacent upland areas in the Outer Coastal Plain physiographic province. The sediments are stratified gravel, sand, and silt glacial outwash along with unstratified glacial till. The northern part of the greenbelt occurs in a channel through the terminal moraine left by the most recent (Wisconsin) glaciation; the southern part of the greenbelt occurs on glacial outwash.
At the southern end of the greenbelt is Sagaponack Inlet, a marine sand beach with sparsely vegetated dunes and an intermittent inlet between Sagaponack Pond and the Atlantic Ocean (see narrative for South Fork Atlantic Beaches). Sagaponack Pond is a 60-hectare (148-acre) brackish pond. Draining into Sagaponack Pond from the north is Sagg Swamp, a 53-hectare (131-acre) red maple swamp dominated by red maple (Acer rubrum) and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) trees with a shrub layer including sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), arrowwood (Viburnum recognitum), wild raisin (Viburnum cassinoides), and highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), and a herbaceous layer dominated by ferns.
A network of coastal plain ponds occurs from Sagg Swamp north to Sag Harbor. These small ponds with gently sloping shorelines occur in shallow depressions, or kettle-holes, in the glacial moraine and outwash. The ponds are groundwater-fed, and the water levels fluctuate seasonally and annually with the height of the water table. These fluctuating water levels result in a intermittently exposed shoreline -- the regionally rare coastal plain pond shore community -- which supports a distinctive assemblage of plants, many of which are regionally or globally rare. Fluctuating water levels maintain the structure and composition of the plant communities; periods of high water are necessary to kill seedlings of woody plants invading from surrounding uplands, and periods of low water are necessary to expose substrate for seed germination and growth. There is distinct zonation to these areas based on elevation, soil moisture, and duration of flooding from the upland forest to the coastal plain pond. The coastal plain ponds in the Long Pond Greenbelt are surrounded by an upland pitch pine-oak forest that has scattered pitch pine (Pinus rigida), but is mostly dominated by scarlet, white, black, chestnut, and red oaks (Quercus coccinea, Q. alba, Q. velutina, Q. prinus, and Q. rubra), with understory shrubs dominated by blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and a sparse herbaceous layer. Between the surrounding pitch pine-oak forest and the coastal plain pondshore generally is a wetland shrub thicket, which is often a pine barren shrub swamp with characteristic shrub species including leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), highbush blueberry, sweet pepperbush, male-berry (Lyonia ligustrina), fetterbush (Leucothoe racemosa), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and winterberry (Ilex verticillatum). Between the shrub thicket and the permanently flooded pond are concentric zones of vegetation from upper to lower elevations (dryer to wetter); these zones include a seasonally flooded herbaceous fringe, a semi-permanently flooded sandy pond bottom zone dominated by annual species, and an intermittently exposed organic pond bottom zone. The coastal plain pondshore community occupies the zone between the shrub thicket and the permanently flooded pond, and varies from year to year and site to site. In years of low water, exposed coastal plain pondshores support a diversity of sedge, grass, and flowering herb species. Characteristic species include pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum), Walter's sedge (Carex walteriana), tall beaked-rush (Rhynchospora macrostachya), panic grasses (Panicum spp.), sundews (Drosera spp.), Canadian St. John's-wort (Hypericum canadense), bladderworts (Utricularia spp.), gratiola (Gratiola aurea), large yellow-eyed grass (Xyris smalliana), and numerous rare species (see below). The permanently flooded coastal plain pond is dominated by emergent and floating-leaved species; characteristic plants include water shield (Brasenia schreberi), white water lily (Nymphaea odorata), bayonet-rush (Juncus miltaris), spikerush (Eleocharis robbinsii), purple bladderwort (Utricularia purpurea), water milfoil (Myriphyllum humile), naiad (Najas flexilis), waterweed (Elodea spp.), pondweed (Potamogeton oakesianus), and a peat moss (Sphagnum macrophyllum).
VI. ECOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF SITE: The network of ponds, wetlands and uplands in the Long Pond Greenbelt support regionally rare coastal plain, pondshore, and other communities, plants, and animals. There are 59 species of special emphasis in the Long Pond Greenbelt complex, incorporating 27 species of plants, and including the following federally and state-listed species. (Living resources and their habitats are dynamic; therefore, the ecological significance and species information presented here may not be complete or up-to-date. State and federal environmental agencies [see Appendix III for office contacts] should be consulted for additional information.)
tiger salamander (Ambystoma t. tigrinum)
least tern (Sterna antillarum)
drowned beaked-rush (Rhynchospora inundata)
water-pennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata)
white boneset (Eupatorium leucolepis var. leucolepis)
pygmyweed (Tillaea aquatica)
osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
knotted spikerush (Eleocharis equisetoides)
orange fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)
crested yellow orchid (Platanthera cristata)
long-tubercled spikerush (Eleocharis tuberculosa)
Carolina redroot (Lachnanthes caroliniana)
southern yellow flax (Linum medium var. texanum)
featherfoil (Hottonia inflata)
clustered bluets (Oldenlandia uniflora)
State-listed special concern animals
spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)
spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata)
State-listed rare plants
red-rooted flatsedge (Cyperus erythrorhizos)
short-beaked bald-rush (Rhynchospora nitens)
long-beaked bald-rush (Rhynchospora scirpoides)
slender crabgrass (Digiteria filiformis)
rose tickseed (Coreopsis rosea)
Stueve's or tall bush-clover (Lespedeza stuevei)
round-fruited ludwigia (Ludwigia sphaerocarpa)
wafer-ash (Ptelea trifoliata)
pine barren gerardia (Agalinis virgata)
Sagaponack Pond supports significant numbers of wintering Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and a few mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and is used as a feeding area during the summer by a variety of waterbirds, including least tern, osprey, double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), great blue heron (Ardea herodias), little blue heron (Egretta caerulea), black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), gadwall (Anas strepera), and blue-winged teal (Anas discors).
Coastal plain pond and coastal plain pondshore communities are regionally and globally rare (see also coastal plain ponds chapter). In the New York Bight Region, they occur mostly in pine barrens on Long Island and New Jersey. There are 12 coastal plain ponds with pondshore communities in the Long Pond Greenbelt. These pondshore communities are all ranked by the Natural Heritage Program as either excellent or good occurrences of this community type in the state. Crooked Pond is considered the best occurrence of a coastal plain pond with high plant diversity in the greenbelt, and perhaps in the state. Other excellent examples of coastal plain pond shore communities occur at Long Pond and Little Long Pond. Rare plant species associated with the coastal plain pondshore community in the greenbelt include red-rooted flatsedge, knotted spikerush, long-tubercled spikerush, long-beaked bald-rush, drowned beaked-rush, reticulated nutrush (Scleria reticularis var. reticularis), stargrass (Aletris farinosa), peanut grass (Amphicarpum purshii), rose tickseed, white boneset, creeping St. John's-wort, Carolina redroot, round-fruited ludwigia, northeastern smartweed (Polygonum hydropiperoides var. opelousanum), clustered bluets, and pine barren gerardia. Openings or roadsides in the oak forests near the ponds also support rare species, including round-leaf boneset (Eupatorium rotundifolium var. ovatum), tall bush-clover, and a (possibly naturalized) population of wafer-ash (Ptelea trifoliata). The coastal plain pond communities support three species of bluet damselflies, the lateral bluet, painted bluet, and barrens bluet damselflies (Enallagma laterale, E. pictum and E. recurvatum). The only pond known to support all three of these bluet species is Crooked Pond. A roadside in the mixed oak woods near the coastal plain ponds has occurrences of the Aureolaria seed borer moth (Rhodoecia aurantiago) which occurs on its host plant, the annual false foxglove (Aureolaria pedicularia). Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) trees within Sagg Swamp supported the regionally rare Hessel's hairstreak (Mitoura hesseli) butterfly in the mid-1980s.
The relatively unfragmented forest and wetland corridor supports a diversity of amphibian and reptile species unusual for Long Island. Eastern tiger salamanders occur at nine small ponds in the Long Pond Greenbelt and also in an adjacent area of kettle ponds on the moraine to the west of Long Pond. Spotted salamander breed in many of the same ponds as do eastern tiger salamander, in addition to other vernal ponds and ephemeral wetlands, and likely occur in the moist woods throughout the greenbelt during other parts of their life cycle. Spotted turtle occur throughout the ponds, swamps, streams, and adjacent woods in the greenbelt. These locally rare species all depend on the unfragmented, undisturbed complex of wetlands and forest, as do the more common amphibian and reptile species such as marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum), common red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus), red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus v. viredescens), wood frog (Rana sylvatica), Fowler's toad (Bufo woodhousii fowleri), northern spring peeper (Psuedacris c. crucifer), gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor), pickerel frog (Rana palustris), bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), green frog (Rana clamitans), eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus), garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), northern black racer (Coluber c. constrictor), eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos), ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus), milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), northern water snake (Nerodia s. sipedon), eastern box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina), common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), and snapping turtle (Cheldrya serpentina).
The freshwater streams and ponds provide habitat to various fish species, including the anadromous alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), catadromous American eel (Anguilla rostrata), and numerous resident freshwater species such as chain pickerel (Esox niger), pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), yellow perch (Perca flavescens), banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), ninespine stickleback (Apeltes quadracus), and eastern mud minnow (Umbra pygmaea).
The corridor of contiguous wetlands and forests supports numerous breeding landbird species, including Neotropical migrant songbirds. A total of 84 bird species has been recorded in Sagg Swamp, including 44 known nesters. Large forested wetlands and upland areas are rare along the Long Island and New York Bight coastline. This undeveloped corridor across the South Fork between the Atlantic Ocean and the Peconic Bays serves as migratory stopover habitat for birds and insects.
VII. THREATS AND SPECIAL PROBLEMS: Encroaching development threatens uplands and wetlands that are not currently protected. Human disturbance of wetlands includes illegal dumping of household and commercial waste, the use of all-terrain vehicles on trails and shorelines, disruption of pond shores (including pond shore raking, moving, trampling, or clearing of native vegetation), and removal or destruction of plants. Significant changes in the water quality or hydrologic regime of the coastal plain ponds in the Long Pond Greenbelt would result in the loss of rare species and degradation of the ecological character and value of pond and pondshore communities. Permanent drawdown of the water table would result in the invasion of woody species into the pondshore zones, while prolonged flooding would inhibit the germination and growth of pondshore plants. Nutrient enrichment from various sources such as septic tank leachate, lawn and farm fertilizers, and road runoff would likely result in replacement of native pondshore plants with other species. Swans and geese feeding in the coastal plain ponds may destroy native plant populations, especially spikerushes. Stocking of ponds with game fish will displace native fish and amphibian species.
VIII. CONSERVATION RECOMMENDATIONS: The recommendations of the Long Pond Greenbelt Management Plan should be supported, and as much of the entire contiguous assemblage of wetlands and associated hydrologically linked uplands in the Long Pond Greenbelt as is possible should be protected. Stormwater runoff into wetlands, including runoff from roads and lawns, needs to be reduced or eliminated by maximizing natural vegetative buffers (preferably to at least 91 meters [300 feet]) around all ponds and wetlands. Landowners need to be persuaded to voluntarily establish natural vegetative buffers, maintain or improve septic systems, reduce lawn fertilizer and pesticide use, and refrain from disturbing the ponds. Monitoring of hydrology and its effects on the coastal plain pondshore communities should continue.
It is not necessarily best, nor possible, for government agencies or conservation organizations always to acquire all the lands needed to protect a rare community type or important habitat. Various approaches and strategies exist for protecting valuable wildlife habitats; each provides different degrees of protection and requires different levels of commitment by regulatory agencies, conservation organizations, and landowners. These techniques include combined public and private financing, land exchanges, conservation easements, cooperative management agreements, mutual covenants, purchase of development rights, comprehensive planning, zoning and land-use regulations, enforcement of existing local, state, and federal regulations, and fee simple acquisition. Techniques can be combined to develop a strategy for land protection that is tailored to a specific site. Partnerships among individual landowners within habitat complexes offer an exciting, practical, and innovative approach to the large, landscape-scale habitats recognized here.
New York State Department of State. 1987. Significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats program. Habitat narrative for Long Pond Greenbelt. New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and Waterfront Revitalization, Albany, NY.
Reschke, C. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Latham, NY.
Schneider, R.L. 1994. Environmental controls of plant species diversity in coastal plain pondshore communities. Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
State of New York, Conservation Department. 1938. A biological survey of the fresh waters of Long Island. Supplemental to the 28th annual report. Albany, NY.
The Nature Conservancy. 1995. Long Pond Greenbelt draft management plan. Long Island Chapter, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.
Zaremba R. and E.E. Lamont. 1993. The status of the coastal plain pondshore community in New York. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 120:180-187.
List of Species of Special Emphasis
Return to table of contents